HC Deb 05 May 1969 vol 783 cc16-8
19. Mr. Judd

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on how many occasions the United Nations Committee of 24 has requested permission to visit British dependencies; on how many occasions such requests have been granted; and on how many occasions they have been refused.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

There have, over the years, been numerous such requests. The only one we felt able to grant was for a special United Nations visiting mission to Aden in April, 1967.

Mr. Judd

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that this reluctance has an unfortunate effect on world opinion and that, if we are as satisfied as we have the right to be in the administration of our dependencies, we might do well to invite the U.N. to visit our remaining dependencies ahead of requests of this kind?

Mr. Roberts

I cannot agree. From experience, the unfortunate effects are probably in the territories themselves. We have a record second to none in decolonisation. We make full and regular reports under Article 73(e) to the U.N., and we voluntarily inform the U.N. about the progress to stable self-rule in each territory. I see no reason automatically to accept visits of this sort.

Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that, at least in Aden, the activities of the United Nations Mission were little short of a farce?

Mr. Roberts

Certainly they did not help in that situation.

21. Mr. Luard

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will consider receiving a United Nations visiting mission in the next British territory to receive independence before independence is granted.

Mr. Goronwy Roberts

My right hon. Friend is always aready to consider proposals put to him, but it would be a matter for very careful judgment by us whether any such visit would prove helpful in a particular case.

Mr. Luard

Will my right hon. Friend agree that the general attitude of this Committee has changed considerably over the past year and that the Governments of New Zealand and Spain have won considerable good will, not only in the Committee but in the United Nations, by inviting missions of this kind to territories before they reached independence? Will my right hon. Friend consider, in particular, the possibility of inviting a mission of this kind to St. Vincent before associated statehood is granted?

Mr. Roberts

I have stated our general attitude. We review our attitude regularly to the Committee of 24. We have maintained our membership and we co-operate to the utmost with it. I have indicated in a previous Answer how fully we provide information about what we do in these dependencies. To compare our position with that of countries which have only one, or perhaps two, dependencies when we have 20 is, I think, a bit misplaced.

Sir F. Bennett

Will the Minister resist any temptation to invite the Committee of 24 to Gibraltar, if only in the interests of its own security.

Mr. Roberts

I have said that my right hon. Friend will consider any request and decide what is best in any particular case.

Mr. Philip Noel-Baker

Will my right hon. Friend agree that there is great advantage in securing the good will of the world, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) said in his Question? Will he also agree that, if the U.N. mission to Aden had been treated properly, a great deal of the bloodshed and other disasters might have been avoided?

Mr. Roberts

I cannot but disagree with the second part of my right hon. Friend's Question. On the first part, we shall certainly look at every application with a view to deciding whether it is necessary, useful and helpful.